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The NAB Diaries – Part Three

Guest Post by Amer Nazir


Part One of the ‘The NAB Diaries’ can be read here
Part Two of the ‘The NAB Diaries’ can be read here


It is with a heavy heart that I write today. My condolence to her immediate family and to all who looked up at her and I fear for the consequences that face my country if things are not sorted out with maturity and dignity even now.

I read two newspapers while travelling the London underground on that fateful day, the Evening Standard and the Daily Mirror… and I could not believe my eyes. Both gave out the same message. Apart from the usual sympathy shown to a victim of violence, all of a sudden, almost overnight to be exact, a new verdict had emerged that she never was a solution for Pakistan…

Coming from the west it was a surprise, there seemed an indecent haste to dismiss her as a political leader of any significance whatsoever even before she was buried. More was written about the corruption in her time. It is not to say that there werent occasional mentions before but never were they so outright and blatant…

The old theory has resurfaced that Pakistan is a failed state which is ungovernable and that army might be the only solution or perhaps not. For after all the army also now stands exposed since the emergency… a rogue state is more what they have in mind and it has to be so since there are again talks of the inevitable use of force as a last resort if everything else fails for the sake of global stability…

The west seems to be sticking to its guns. Anyone who does not agree to their way of life has to be isolated… or worse, out rightly conquered and humiliated.

However on our part there still seems to be this fatal optimism. Even though it is a writing on the wall that the next sixty years are not going to be the same as the previous. They will be better or worse. Things have to change. And the need to change is not only an internal requirement. But the irresponsible amongst us bury their heads in the sand and declare that nothing will happen to Pakistan and that we will go on as we always have… they forget that how we always have is not too long a period to guarantee an eternal permanency. They have forgotten what the Director of FBI had predicted a few years ago… And at the same time, in todays terms, sixty years is not a young age for a nation anymore if the objective is to rationalize blunders. All what one has to do is to look at India and make a commitment to never use this silly excuse again…

The only way out for us is to follow the path of nations that have progressed. To follow the time tested and proven systems. Contrary to what Musharaff desires and which is to re-invent the wheel on principles that defy both the laws of nature as well as sciences. But then the army has too much vested interest…

And hence it is now critical for us to somehow tell the world that it is the silent majority alone that can change Pakistan. That the only hope lies with the educated middle-class which is the vehicle of growth, development and change in any society but which in our country has been silenced through compliant judiciaries, a throttled media, and denied Human Rights. The world has to be told that an unjust and violent environment can only produce more violent groups of men since only they can negotiate with violent men in power… that it is not as if such a culture can ever produce parliamentarians now or in the distant future…

There is no room left for mistakes now. The common people have to be brought into power otherwise our nation will continue to be represented by armed thugs whether they are the law or the outlaws… and although the NAB Diaries narrate a single incident, yet they portray what is the usual norm. They hope to convince the Free World to shift its allegiance from a single man to the people of Pakistan. To make them realise that we are not trouble makers… that we are victims ourselves.

But first a thought… I just cant imagine that it is Al-Qaeda who stood to gain the most from her assassination. I mean what could she have done more than Musharaff…? How could she have harmed them more…? Why would Al-Qaeda not opt for an enemy in the shape of a diluted parliament with her as the Prime Minister over the current all out to get them policy if Musharaff is to be believed… or is the Al-Qaeda leadership devoid of common sense altogether…? Why would it want to maintain the status quo…why was it so afraid of her?

The major beneficiary in any case is going to be whoever she could have hurt the most in terms of power and resource sharing…

There are also talks that Osama Bin Laden may soon give a statement to take credit of her assassination. I hope that does not happen. The west thinks in a different way. If they start believing in the theory that Al Qaeda did not stand to gain as much from her assassination as has been made out then an over emphasis by Al Qaeda would seem as a smoke screen and the west will start imagining other behind the scene alliances… Anyone who would seem as a beneficiary while both the hero and the villain are kept alive will be suspect…

Maybe democracy is no guarantee for you… the white man sitting next to me in the tube said.Long time ago when you were setting up your democratic institutions did you have a guarantee… did you build your institutions around personalities or did you develop people around the institutions…? I asked in return.

Anyway, what is of crucial importance now is to tell the world that… our majority is silent…!

It has to be what is often termed as irony of fate. That morning the first call to finalize a foursome came from a Colonel friend who was now a Deputy Director IB. He requested that I reach the Defence Golf Club on time for a change. His friend and now his boss Major General Niazi was to be the guest for the day.

This was his first day out of the hospital after a bit of a heart trouble and General Niazi was cheerful. That day I met him for the first and the last time. He seemed a simple man with a glaring sense of righteousness which subsequently, I have discovered as not a very desirable mix of personal attributes once encouraged beyond ones competence level. We started at the back nine and it was not long after tee-off that General Niazi narrated the incident of how his men had caught someone at Lahore airport who was about to leave the country with a suitcase full of currency a day before the infamous foreign exchange fiasco by the Nawaz Sharif government. But General Niazi was ordered to release the man and he in return had requested to be transferred back to his regular unit. I could not bear to see this plunder of the nation anymore, General Niazi remarked. I had seen enough already while working on the Zardari case.

Musharaff however transferred him back to Intelligence Bureau immediately after the coup. General Niazi, we need you in IB. I can assure you that no criminal will ever be allowed to go free again, he had said.

Over a cup of tea that day at the Golf course, General Niazi disclosed that a new organisation called NAB had been formed and that its initial target was the top 35 corrupt businessmen in the country… and I, believe me, had unknowingly congratulated General Niazi. NAB seemed exactly what Pakistan needed. I did not know better at the time. I had yet to learn that an all powerful outfit in the hands of mortals is bound to turn into a terrorist organisation unless made accountable to the rule of law. .

And soon NAB did become the most powerful organisation in the country. It made FSF and FIA seem as amateurs. The next that I heard of NAB was courtesy the Lawrence College grapevine. The then Chairman NAB General Amjad narrated how he had received a call from General Musharaff minutes after Musharaff had a meeting with The Agha Khan. The Chairman was asked to release a certain Ismaeli businessman. But I have to run NAB, General Amjad objected. And I have to run the country, was the reply…

And is this not the story of our lives. Have we not been burdened time and again by noble visions that are fated to be built on faulty premises and since they are unsustainable over a period of time they are sooner or later made subservient to the dictates of expediency. Yesterdays noble vision is often replaced with the noble vision of today. After all, whatever the Agha Khan said must have made sense at that new moment in time. And therefore it is no surprise that a policy reversal is often initiated by the same dictator who had envisioned its perfectness not too long ago.

Mediocrity does not demand adherence to lofty principles. It instead demands a personal loyalty to its own ever-changing dictates. According to Milan Kundera, a novel writes itself, it emerges with a distinct character of its own quite independent of the author. Kundera says that in the end if a novel does not turn out to be more intelligent than its creator then the author should discard writing and find some other line of work…

Similarly, a true entrepreneur knows in his heart of hearts that his own interests may not always converge with the interests of the organisation he has created it being an entity in its own right and having a life of its own. And if the entrepreneur is a man of vision he will then introduce professional management in his organisation that can implement systems independent of him. Hence forth the rewards will follow if the loyalty is not to a person but an organisation. When even the entrepreneur is subservient to the organisation he has created.

But sadly, in our country, Musharaff declares with a sigh, he complains like a jilted lover that it was he who had given independence to the media in the first place… but where does it say that the media was suppose to discard every aspect of professionalism in gratitude and dance to the tune of its so-called father and originator… how sad would it have been if the media was ethically required to constrain itself to the narrow vision of its so-called liberator who is clearly suffering from mediocrity of purpose. Would Musharaff himself not laugh at the idea that Nawaz Sharif should have the rights to make and break the traffic laws for the motorway since it was he who had constructed it…

And this is the reason why history tends to repeat itself a bit more often in our country. Media and judiciary are suppressed time and again for instance. For most obviously, we suffer at the hands of a mindset that has had no opportunity for mental growth and maturity… for all we know, we may have even just seen the pinnacle of leadership that such a mindset can ever produce… and it is a double jeopardy for us as a nation then that the rest of the world is moving along at another pace altogether…

Media or NAB… the pattern is the same. During my ordeal I knew that the quickest way to get rid of NAB was a plea bargain but it was a practical difficulty if one was innocent and did not have a dime to ones name anymore…

By this time, since the forex case, everyone seemed to be after me: the Security commission of Pakistan, the FIA, the State Bank, NAB… There was a saving grace though, the officers assigned to the forex case were navy and air force officers and they behaved same as any minority they were comparatively decent and proper… they were not as loud as our artilleries and our infantries… and it did not take long for them to realize that I was an innocent man who was being turned into a scapegoat…

It was the same old story. I asked for any evidence that could suggest that I had ever traded in forex, and that a crime had been committed. At the least, whether there were any complaints from any quarter that I had defrauded someone but all I received was a blank stare and a reply that they were still investigating.

The situation was clear. There was no evidence in both cases. There was no evidence of even a crime having taken place in both cases. And if I could not be taken to court I could not be let off the hook either. The PALPA board was concerned about a backlash from its community. My brother was concerned about my being declared an innocent man… worse an honest man… And now NAB was also concerned that the story may get out about how they had acted beyond their mandate and jurisdiction and had destroyed the largest e-commerce group of Pakistan. The only solution lay in keeping me as a perpetual accused for as long as possible…

Biting my pride once more, I turned again towards people who could take my case to Musharaff and I studied my list. The first was the colonel who was the manager of Defence Beach View club who frequently arranged ghazal evenings with Salman Alvi for Musharaffs pleasure but it now seemed that he had fallen from grace… There was no chance from Majors Tariq and Q Rabbani and wives et al since they had no wish to act outside their personal interests… My nephew had married into a family whose mediocre lives had also changed significantly since Musharaff had come into power. The gentleman was one of Musharaffs friends and now specialized in justifying everything that Musharaff did including genocide if ordered by Musharaff since it was exactly what humanity needed… There were also the Tariq Ikrams and Nisar Memons of this world but I knew that they would never speak for anyone if there were no personal benefits involved anything beyond personal gain somehow seemed to clash with their principles and ethical codes… and therefore finally my selection fell on Azmat Bari Cheema, the younger brother of Major Inam Bari Cheema… Musharraffs best friend…

It was a dark night I remember; the fog was descending on Rawalpindi making the atmosphere gloomy. Azmat Bari Cheema decided to honour my visit and replaced what was already on the table with what Cowasjee would term as the Scotlands finest. The evening progressed just as every evening with a Musharaff courtier would. Apparently, Bari sahib had some kidney trouble or something of the sort the previous week and had received a surprise visitor to his bedside. Musharaff had come unannounced. But Bari sahib had yet been un-relentless in his criticism and had strongly objected to Musharaffs plan to make Jamali the Prime Minister and had urged in favour of Makhdoom Amin Fahim…

All this time, I sat dazed. Here was a guy who was often ignored during major decisions that were made in Prince Glass where he was the Marketing Manager. But the brothers now managed a successful road construction company and it was simply amazing that they also influenced decisions such as who should be the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan… And I kept wondering about the courtiers… They reminded me of Hitlers courtiers albeit with a difference. Hitlers courtiers perhaps genuinely believed in Hitlers sincerity of purpose and chose to commit suicide along with him. And now I wondered how the future will treat Mushraffs courtiers, whether they will commit suicide also because of the poor part they have played or will they face a Nuremburg trial…

What do you think of Musharaff? Bari asked me as if he had read my thoughts. I dont think what he is doing is right, I answered in a comradely spirit hoping to take advantage of the intimate evening and then quickly told him what NAB had been up to. Will you help me Bari sahib, I asked. Well firstly, Pervez bhai has requested us to never interfere in NAB matters, and secondly as is apparent by your conversation, you do not respect our friend and brother (Musharaff) so why should he help you? Because it is he who has started all this nonsense in the first place, I replied and killed my chances for good…

My next conversation with Azmat Bari Cheema on the telephone was crisp and to the point. He said that he had talked to the General (unspecified) in detail and has been told that… I had actually done it. You have done it Amer. You have embezzled a lot of money, he said to me point blank on the phone, I suggest you go and see Brigadier Chaudhry who is the intelligence head of NAB Sindh. Perhaps he will help you, I cant… And by the way, Brigadier Chaudhry is also an Abdalian like us…

Months passed, neither would General Bukshi see me and nor of course would Brigadier Abassi. Then one day Colonel Changhezi came to visit me from Quetta. He was a Minister in the Baluchistan government at the time. A dear friend, he was also the head of E-Tech group security earlier. Together, we went to see Brigadier Yaqoob in his office who was the staff officer of the corps commander Sindh. The good news was that General Bukshi had been transferred and Major General Haroon Pasha had come in his place a day earlier. Both Changhezi and Brigadier Yaqoob said that General Pasha was an extremely honest and God fearing man.

General Pasha seemed extremely perturbed when he heard my story. Snapping his fingers he said that he will sort the matter out within two days…. but he also refused to see me for the next few months in spite of pressure from Colonel Changhezi and Brigadier Yaqoob. At the same time, it was also obvious that he was trying to help. All of a sudden the investigations in the forex case speeded up. The officers became more sympathetic towards me and openly abused the PIA captains… and within months they cleared me from the forex case though they refused to give me anything in writing…

General Pasha did eventually agree to see me months later. He looked at me and said that all the cases against me were bogus but that he could not remove my name from the ECL. He said that this was just in case the PALPA board were to take the previous trustees to court and if that were to happen then I could be named as a possible beneficiary…

Beneficiary of what General sahib? I asked. Am I a beneficiary or a victim?

The General averted my eyes and said that all he could do for me was to promise not to contest my application if I were to apply for a one time permission to go and meet my wife and daughters in London whom I had not seen for three years.

Looking at General Pasha I realized that whatever the General had said made no sense at all, and that it was perhaps his way to tell me that he was helpless against General Munir Hafeez.

By this time, I was living on my own at the Defence Sun Set club. A club where I used to hold tennis tournaments for years but now no one visited me. I seldom left the room. I sold my membership of Karachi club to pay the bills.

Contrary to the promise of General Pasha, I received a letter from the Office of General Munir Hafeez three months later that my application for a one time permission to see my family had been rejected. All my requests to seek an interview with General Munir Hafeez were also turned down. I contacted the media but they simply said that they couldnt dare print my story…

A friend at the Prime Minister House informed me that according to rules a persons name cannot be kept indefinitely on the ECL unless he is charged with a crime. He said that in my case the Interior Ministry had repeatedly requested NAB to fulfil the official formalities but had been told to ignore everything and keep my name on the ECL nonetheless…

In the meantime, Colonel Abassi was transferred from Karachi to Islamabad. He called me over to introduce me to my new investigation officer. But when we were alone, he leaned over the desk and whispered, You cant win against them. They are six hundred and you are alone. The chief will get you one way or another. My advice is that you leave Pakistan if and when you get a chance. Maybe you will be appreciated in another country one day you will never have any respect in this country for sure…

I laughed. I said all I was trying to do was to copy the IT entrepreneurs from other countries. I am nothing. I am a small copy cat and no Einstein, I said to Colonel Abassi, but if you had Bill Gates in this country, dont you think NAB would have put him in jail also for one thing or another.

I am sure, replied Colonel Abassi before he burst out laughing…

My most painful exposures though were with Brigadier Chaudhry. I did not expect such a level from Hasanabdal. Brigadier Saboor was a yet another example… he seemed to me as someone who was hiding in a uniform with the hope that one day he might yet be lucky and slip unnoticed through a yet another net that maybe he may even reach the next level… Dont you have any sympathy for an innocent man? I would ask Brigadier Saboor. Who is innocent, where, I cant see anyone… he would mock. Why dont you arrest me then…? I would ask and he would again laugh and turn away…

But it was Brigadier Chaudhry who made me realize the level to which our army had fallen. He was the sort who mentioned God and the prophet every few minutes and every half a mile. He just did not seem to realize that a religion is also judged by the character of its followers. That praying five times carried extra responsibility. One did not expect munafiqat from such a person at least. Were regular prayers not a disciplinary exercise to keep a person away from evil…? Brigadier Munir Chaudhry knew I was innocent but that did not matter to him…

All of you civilians are frauds he would say all the time. Look at me, I once had a mine requisitioned and could have saved a lot of money if I had mis-declared the true potential of the mine but I refused to do so. A civilian would not have hesitated for a second.

And I would look at him in amazement. The Brigadier had a pension from the army. Most probably a Brigadier House if not two as well as few plots tucked away somewhere while he lived in a NAB accommodation. He of course also had a NAB salary and army entitlements of medical etc etc. On top of that his army connections had also secured him a mine… what else could have the tax payers done to keep him honest…

Ironically, it was the staff right outside Brigadier Chaudhrys office who told me that my brother often came to visit Brigadier Chaudhry since they were course mates from Hasanbadal… Your brother usually takes the Brigadier to the Pearl Continental for dinners… they would tell me…

And all one can say is that Musharaff is right when he says that we cant ape the west since we have our own ways and systems to do things…

And this is the way we do things…


Part One of the ‘The NAB Diaries’ can be read here
Part Two of the ‘The NAB Diaries’ can be read here


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